The earliest flood legend in world mythology originates with the Sumerians, dating back to about 200BCE. The text found in Sumerian clay tablets provides impressive stories of the human origins and creation of mankind and the interference of the gods in a remarkable way. You can read more about the story of creation according to the Sumerians.
Twelve hundred years had not yet passed when the land extended and the peoples multiplied. The land was bellowing like a bull,
The God got disturbed with their uproar. Enlil heard their noise.
And addressed the great Gods, ‘The noise of mankind has become too intense for me,
With their uproar I am deprived of sleep. Cut off supplies for the peoples, Let there be a scarcity of planet-life to satisfy their hunger.
Adad [another Custodian] should withhold his rain, and below, the flood [the regular flooding of the land which made it fertile] should not come up from the abyss.
Let the wind blow and parch the ground, Let the clouds thicken but not release a downpour, Let the fields diminish their yields,
There must be no rejoicing among them. From the book of William Bramley, The Gods of Eden.
In the myths it shows that gods were angry with the noise that humans were making and decided to destroy humanity. Of course ‘noise’ can be interpreted as anything that was against the will of the ‘gods’, or defying their power, as mentioned in Genesis and other mythologies, such as the Cataclysm of Ra. Also, we again see a blood thirsty and ruthless behaviour of the gods, another common element among these myths. In another Assyrian tablet then we see:
Command that there be a plague,
Let Namtar diminish their noise.
Let disease, sickness, plague and pestilence
Blow upon them like a tornado.
They commanded and there was plague
Namtar diminished their noise.
Disease, sickness, plague and pestilence
Blew upon them like a tornado. From the book of William Bramley, The Gods of Eden.
In the Sumerian tablets it mentions that just before the flood, ‘gods’ left Earth to be safe in the heavens and returned after the end of the flood.
The story of Noah depicts a similar story as that in the Epic of Gilgamesh, which predates The Bible. According to that epic, the god Enki (or Ea) was the creator of man, of whom he was fond. Enki approached a man named Utnapishtim (or Atra-hasis in the table called Eridu Genesis, or Ziusudra) and revealed the plans of the gods, giving him the exact plans of how to build a boat and going against the will of the other gods. Once the flood was over, Utnapishtim sends three different birds (a dove, a swallow and a raven) to find land. Once on land, Utnapishtim offered sacrifices to the gods. A few gods found Utnapishtim and the other survivors, and because of mercy they did not kill them but transferred them to another area to live.
Obviously in the Babylonian myths, gods create the flood and gods save the one faithful and obedient survivor; but again, more survive the flood.
Is it possible for the flood to be something that indeed happened? The answer is yes. About 10000BCE a shift happened in the axis of the earth because of the increased ice on the poles, which resulted in melting ice raising the levels of the oceans and flooding the whole world; however, such a flood wouldn’t eliminate humanity on Earth, and a great number of people would have survived.
Geologists William Ryan and Walter Pitman of the Columbia University suggested that a great flood in the Middle East resulted from rising water levels at the end of the last Ice Age around 7,000 years ago.
If we take into account the Sumerian tables, the flood mentioned would have occurred around 3000BCE, which doesn’t coincide with the last polar shift. Or did other floods arise since the last polar shift, as the Egyptian priest said to Plato when he suggested that many floods happened before the end of Atlantis and the Deucalion Greek flood myth? If yes, some say those flood gods would have been responsible for scaling back the flood waters and restricting them to specific areas.